May 17, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Resilient Irvine team holds on to defeat Woodbridge for fourth win in a row

Tate Zimmerman of Irvine had a solo home run in the fifth inning Friday. (Photos courtesy Jim Tomlin, For OC Sports Zone).

Irvine High School’s baseball team captured its fourth Pacific Coast League victory in a row Friday to move above .500 in league play but had to go extra innings to do it, defeating Woodbridge 6-4 in a wild, highly-dramatic eight inning game at Ryan Lemmon Stadium.

“It’s been one of those years where it started off a little rough and we had to kind of stick with it,” said Irvine Coach Gabriel Cota. “We were a little bit injured at the beginning. The last four games we’ve been scratching the surface of what we could be.

“It’s a huge testament to their makeup and not giving up against such a good team, the defending champs. We stuck with it and it was a thriller.”

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Woodbridge, which came into the game tied for first place with Beckman, tied the game 4-4 with a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Chase Quezada, driving in Nathan Perry, who singled to send the game into extra innings.

Irvine regrouped in the top of the eighth with two runs on a single by Mihir Dhodia which drove in pinch-runner Matthew Kim (running for Bryan Wilhelm who singled) and Ian Hew, who singled and stole second base.

“That’s just how I play the game, the game of baseball is really fun,” said Dhodia, who had three RBI. “There was a good pitcher out there, I got a good ball that missed a little bit and I took it to the right side and did the job for my guys and picked them up. That’s what we do at Irvine High. We pick each other up.”

But the Vaqueros (4-8, 4-3)) had to hold on in the bottom of the seventh when Woodbridge (8-5, 5-2) loaded the bases with two outs on two walks and a hit batter. However, Nathan Valencia, who started at shortstop, came on in relief to get Quezada to pop out to end the game.

“I like the way we competed, we weren’t good early offensively,” said Irvine Coach Ryan Brucker. “We kind of stuck with it and found our groove and it just came down to Irvine competing and doing a good job and putting the ball in play and on our end we need to play catch better.

“We can’t pout about it, every time we play Irvine it’s a close game. It’s always a dogfight, they’re a well coached team, Gabe does a real good job and it should be fun tomorrow night (Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Great Park vs. Irvine).”

Irvine got strong pitching from starter Joon Lee, who pitched into the seventh before being relieved by Taylor Skelley.

Woodbridge starter Jake Amundson pitched the first five innings before being relieved Brandon Abernathy in the sixth inning.

Irvine’s first two runs in the third inning were unearned. Wilhelm reached on an error in the infield with two outs, allowing Henry Jeong to score. Then Caden Schaffer followed with a single to put Irvine ahead 2-0.

Tate Zimmerman smacked a solo home run over the right field fence in the fifth inning to give the Vaqueros a 3-0 lead.

But Woodbridge rallied with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Nathan Perry had an RBI single and Quezada drove in another run on a groundout to cut the lead to 3-2.

Irvine countered with a run in the sixth inning. Hew walked to lead off and eventually came home to score on Dhodia’s bunt to make it 4-2. But Woodbridge got closer with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Sean McCance singled and eventually scored on an error to give the Warriors a chance to tie it in the seventh.

Cota was especially pleased with the effort of Lee, the starting pitcher.

“That’s three outings in a row he’s been absolutely wonderful for us,” Cota said. “He gave us a chance and we go out there and just battled.”

Beckman (6-1) moved into first place in the league with a 6-2 victory over University. Woodbridge fell into second place and Irvine is in third place, very much in the race for the playoffs.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;